Victor Valdez: In 2009, Victor Valdez was sentenced to 4 years incarceration for an aggravated assault charge received in Portland, Maine in 2008. At the time of his imprisonment, Valdez was suffering from congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver and lung problems. In addition to these pre-existing health concerns, Valdez was undergoing renal failure which required several weekly dialysis treatments off prison grounds; often those treatments were scheduled at 5:30 am. On November 19, 2009, Valdez was removed from the general prison population and sentenced to a term of 30 days in solitary confinement in the 132-cell unit of the “supermax” Maine State Prison. Several inmates wrote to state agencies on Victor’s behalf, pleading his case and questioning his treatment: a 52 year-old inmate in poor health, who was well liked among the general population. On November 27, 2009, Victor died.
Judy Garvey: Prison activist Judy Garvey is co-chair of M-PAC, the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, which is comprised of Maine prisoners, their friends and families, victims of crime and others committed to ethical, positive and humane changes in Maine’s prison system. Along with co-chair Jim Bergin, Garvey received numerous reports from prisoners detailing events leading to and including the mistreatment and death of Victor Valdez. In Natural Causes Killed Victor, Mary is representative of Garvey’s involvement.
For more information on M-PAC, please visit http://www.maineprisoneradvocacy.org.
Lance Tapley: Journalist Lance Tapley first attracted the attention of George Swanson one Maundy Thursday when Swanson read an edited version of an address (An Unprecedented Crime) delivered by Tapley at the National Lawyers Guild 70th Anniversary Convention in Washington, D.C., on October 31, 2007. The discussion concerned how to use international treaties to advance human rights in the United States. It was the description of the torture and abuse received by inmates at Supermax detention facilities across the United States that pushed Swanson into his crusade against prison torture. As Tapley put it, “The most widely accepted legal definition of torture is in the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — a treaty to which the United States is party, and is therefore U.S. law. In this definition, torture is treatment that causes ‘severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,’ when it is inflicted by officials for purposes of punishment or coercion.” In Natural Causes Killed Victor, Lance Tapley is represented as the Greek Chorus and the Reporter.
Read Lance’s story of Victor’s torture and death in his Boston Phoenix article.
– From When the Prisoners Ran Walpole by Jamie Bissonette with Ralph Hamm, Robert Dellelo and Edward Rodman, pg. 223.
Bobby’s years in prison are the center of a New Yorker article, “Hellhole.”
George Swanson: When the Episcopal diocese deconsecrated and bulldozed the Jersey City church where George was the rector he became a banjo folksinger/story-teller in Local 1000 of the American Federation of Musicians. He has performed in the Hancock County Jail, on Pete Seeger’s Hudson River sloop Clearwater, the barque Peking at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, schools and libraries across the country, the Olympic Games in Atlanta and Sydney, above the Arctic Circle, in the Kalahari Desert, on Mt. Fuji in Japan, and most Tuesday nights in season leading sea chanties on the 151-foot four-masted schooner Margaret Todd sailing out of Bar Harbor.
After seeing Lotte Lenya in the Threepenny Opera in 1956 he has been a lifelong fan of Kurt Weill. George produced, directed and sang in the Three Penny Cabaret: Rag-time Meets Mack the Knife, a standing-room-only evening at St. Saviour’s Church in Bar Harbor in 2009, which raised $4000 for food and fuel donations on Mt. Desert Island, where he lives in Maine. He was the Street Singer, Reverend Kimball, and the Queen’s Messenger in the 2010 New Surry Theatre production of the Three Penny Opera in Blue Hill, Maine.
George was a “hot shot” U.S. Forest Service firefighter, steelworker, construction laborer, Fuller Brush Man, NRA rifle instructor, and fruit picker before being awarded a national scholarship at Harvard, graduating in English with a Boylston First Prize in rhetoric and oratory. At the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan he founded the Chelsea Theater Guild and was the idiot brother in Shaw’s Devil’s Disciple, the Sergeant of Police in Penzance, and Falstaff in Henry IV Part I. He served as a parish priest in Menlo Park and Coalinga, California; in Kansas City, Missouri; in Jersey City, New Jersey; and in Botswana, Africa, where he introduced the new national anthem accompanied on his banjo in towns and villages around the Kalahari Desert when Botswana became an independent nation. He helps edit www.katrinasdream.org, a website put up as a memorial to his late wife, Katrina, one of the Philadelphia Eleven women priests irregularly ordained in 1974. As part of Katrina’s Dream, George assists his daughter-in-law Helene and his son William in negotiations with Nancy Pelosi and other representatives and senators to put the Equal Rights Amendment (for women and for men) into the American Constitution. He sees the degradation of women as the primary injustice issue.
A former prison chaplain, George is a member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition (M–PAC) working to achieve the ethical and humane treatment of prisoners everywhere, at home and abroad.
In 2012 Wipf and Stock will publish George’s Ten Reasons to Find Another Church & Ten Blessings for a Church, as two-books-in-one. Natural Causes Killed Victor and Are Clergy Necessary? may be published in Espresso Book Machines. Google it!